ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A St. Petersburg tattoo shop wants to help people move past hate by offering cover-ups on racist ink -- for free.
Most people spend a lot of time choosing their first tattoo. After all, it is permanent.
“It’s the one thing that stays with your forever,” said Fredo, the owner of Fredo Ink & Co.
But if there's one thing he knows, it's that people can change.
“When someone tries to move on past the hate they’ve had already, they can’t when they’re branded with something from their past,” Fredo said.
Last week, Fredo posted on social media, offering to cover-up people's racist or hateful tattoos -- "no questions asked." He said the response was overwhelming; they have received more than 100 inquiries from across the country.
A Tampa man was their first client. John Dingler was once in prison. While there, he got a white power patch tattooed on his head.
Fredo Ink & Co. helped John Dingler put a white supremacy tattoo in his past with a symbol of American freedom - an eagle.
“People look at you and automatically think that you’re some racist, some Hitler guy, and it’s not really that,” said Dingler. “Jobs, go into somebody’s house to do construction, and they automatically cancel the job, kick you out their house.”
Dingler says he is proud of his American heritage, but the hateful ink on his body sends the wrong message, especially to his mixed-race son.
“He asked me about them and I didn’t know how to explain it to him. How can you explain that?” Dingler wondered. “All I know is that I love him more than life.”
So, one person at a time, Fredo Ink & Co. is helping folks like Dingler break free of their past.
“It’s helping people move on, making a change, making a physical change, not just talking about it,” Fredo said.
He says it's a relatively small way he can make the world a kinder and better place.
Dingler's finished piece is a bald eagle -- a symbol of America and freedom.
Fredo Ink & Co. is currently going through all of the cover-up requests and booking appointments. They plan to complete a handful next week.
The only catch to this offer is the artist picks what the cover-up tattoo is. Fredo said they will work with the client so everyone is happy.